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New York City Launches Municipal ID Program, Which Allows Many Immigrants to Obtain Identification

card-158195_640.pngNew York City introduced an identification program for residents of the five boroughs, known as IDNYC, in January 2015, calling it “the country’s most ambitious municipal identification program.” In one sense, IDNYC will allow residents of New York City to distinguish themselves from their suburban neighbors. The aspect of the program that has gained the most attention, however, is the benefit it is likely to have for the city’s undocumented immigrant population.

For many of the city’s estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants, this may be the first time they will be able to obtain legal identification in this country. Several New Jersey cities and counties have launched similar programs, including Asbury Park, Princeton, and Mercer County. Cities across the country, from Newark to El Paso, Texas, are reportedly considering following in these other cities’ footsteps. Several states also allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses. These types of identification do not confer many important rights and benefits, and the difference is important to know.

Two frequently cited statistics from the past year or two involve the estimated number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States—approximately 11 million—and the estimated number of deportation cases the federal government can handle in a given year—about 400,000. At this capacity, it would take just under 28 years to remove every allegedly undocumented immigrant in the country, and that would assume that no one else arrives here during that time.

Despite much of the heated rhetoric heard in government and in the media, undocumented immigrants live in this country, and they spend money in this economy. Still, they live in hiding in many ways, unable to participate in many aspects of normal life because of a lack of legal identification. The IDNYC program is billed as an effort to give them greater access to the features of living in New York City.

Officially, the IDNYC program does not make much mention of immigration or immigration status, except to note that ID applicants are not required to disclose immigration-related information. Since the U.S. Constitution puts immigration enforcement under the federal government’s jurisdiction, city officials would not have much use for that information anyway. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio states that the ID program is “fraud-proof” and secure.

New York City residents may use the ID to open accounts at around 10 participating banks and credit unions, a marker of financial security that has never been available to many undocumented immigrants. The ID confers other benefits that many people take for granted, such as access to public buildings and the ability to easily identify oneself.

Among the benefits that a city-issued ID does not provide are the right to operate a motor vehicle, access to state or public benefits, and authorization for employment. Some of these benefits are available to qualifying immigrants under programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but IDNYC has no impact on those programs at all. It cannot and does not create or confer any immigration rights.

Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger represents individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States, immigrants currently living in the New York City and Northern New Jersey areas, family members petitioning for a loved one, and employers who want to hire talent from other countries. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced and skilled immigrant advocate, contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Executive Actions on Immigration Part 2: Authority and Opposition, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 24, 2014
Executive Actions on Immigration Part 1: The Context and the Benefits, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, December 10, 2014
New York City Passes Laws Further Restricting Local Law Enforcement’s Cooperation with Federal Immigration Detainers, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, October 29, 2014
Photo credit: OpenClips [Public domain, CC0 1.0], via Pixabay.